DVD & Digital · LFF21

Film review: Bull

Writer and director Paul Andrew Williams takes on the classic tale of revenge in his latest feature Bull. Neil Maskell stars as the eponymous protagonist who arrives back in his neighbourhood after ten years away. It is unclear exactly where he’s been for the past decade but there’s no mystery around the reason for his return; to get his own back against those that have wronged him. His unsuspecting targets include his crooked father-in-law Norm (David Hayman), old pal Marco (Jason Milligan) and his ex, Gemma (Lois Brabin-Platt), and he’ll stop at nothing short of total retribution.

The story itself charters fairly commonplace territory when it comes to central character arcs of this ilk, but what sets this crime flick apart from others is the crippling suspense, Raffertie’s sinister score, and a merciless penchant for eye-watering violence. Carrying the intrigue and dread of Shane Meadows’ cult masterpiece Dead Man’s Shoes, sequences from the past are smartly drip-fed into the narrative as Bull stalks his prey like a man possessed in the present. Excellent scenes at a grubby fairground illuminate the bleak atmosphere, a neon glow bringing colour to the relentlessly dark path we’re taken down by Williams’ killer script.

 Reminiscent of his dead-eyed turn in the severely underrated television series Utopia, leading actor Neil Maskell is terrifyingly good in this role. Channelling the ‘big bad wolf’ in a harrowing yet strangely hilarious moment, he brings a deranged sense of humour to his performance. His chilling presence is challenged by his most significant adversary, portrayed with old-school menace by David Hayman. Their tracks will inevitably cross, but this isn’t the traditional conflict of hero and villain; there are no good men or women to be found in this town.

 Bull is a proper nasty British thriller, directed with an alarming sense of urgency by Paul Andrew Williams. It’s an absolute treat to see Neil Maskell at his very best, and to witness his staggering performance through a grimace and a grin.

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